Opinion: As Economy Slows, RV Service Business Booms


Tony Flammia

Editor’s Note: The following opinion column by Tony Flammia, director of sales and marketing for the National RV Training Center was submitted to RVBusiness.com for publication.

As interest rates climb and the economy begins to shrink in anticipation of recessionary times, many people are expressing concern over the future of the RV industry.

The industry did enjoy several unprecedented years of exceptional growth, but because everything is cyclical in business, what goes up, must come down. That appears to be happening now. Dealers are shrinking inventories because they don’t want to be stuck paying floorplan interest on RVs people can’t afford to buy. In turn, manufacturers will scale back production to accommodate reduced demand.

However, when people hear the words “shrinking” or “scaling back,” they may assume the industry is going backward. Yet, in most cases, the market is simply right sizing to normal, more manageable levels.

Despite whatever happens with the economy, there is one segment of the RV industry that will continue to flourish for many years to come – service. The RVs sold over the past few years will still need to be maintained and repaired. We’re talking about more than 11 million motorhomes and towables, according to figures maintained by the RV Industry Association (RVIA).

The cyclical economy seems to revisit business owners every 7 to 10 years. Yet, people either forget lessons learned from the last downturn, or they pretend things are so different this time around that it will result in a different outcome.

Things really are different. Despite how poorly the economy slides from a sales perspective, RV service will only continue to grow.

The recession from December 2007 to June 2009 taught us that while people will control their spending until things improve, those who do own RVs will continue to use them often. The reasons for this are varied:

If consumers own an RV, they might as well use it. RV vacations remain considerably cheaper than anything requiring air travel and hotels. In the last recession, “staycations” became a buzzword as families still sought recreation options closer to home.

In some parts of the country, living in an RV costs less than renting an apartment or making mortgage payments. Consequently, some people are opting to live in RV parks full-time.

COVID ushered in the knowledge that people do not have to be in an office to be productive. Therefore, they can work from home. So, who cares if the home is on wheels and changes location frequently?

Parents realize their children will continue to age despite the state of the economy. They only have a short period in which to spend time with their kids before they become teens and move on to other activities, jobs or move out to start their own lives.

Because people will continue to use their RVs, the units will continue to break and require service. In the last recession, service business kept many RV dealers afloat as sales dried up. When sales started booming again in 2020, practically overnight due to COVID, many dealers found themselves needing additional RV technicians to keep up with demand.

Dealers were so busy moving nearly 600,000 new RVs out the door, they inadvertently created the need for more mobile service technicians.

This fact alone makes a recession in 2022 or 2023 entirely different from those of the past. What changed is that literally thousands of new mobile RV service technicians opened businesses around the country in the past five years. While RV sales are in decline, mobile service technicians are busier than ever.

RV owners discovered the myriad of advantages to working with independent mobile service technicians. Will those customers now return to RV dealerships for routine service just because the economy is contracting?

In all honesty, I believe there is enough room for everyone. The need for RV service is great and repair options are few. So, if a dealership is providing five-star quality service, then the business has nothing to worry about. In fact, many mobile RV technicians are working hand-in-hand with dealerships to offer on-site repair options to their customers.

So, while sales are slowing for RV dealerships, mobile RV technicians will continue to thrive.

As the recession takes a toll on other industries and people lose their jobs, many of them will discover the advantages to being an RV technician. They can get all the training they need to fix 80 percent of the most common problems with RVs and be set up in businesses of their own in as little as five weeks.

While some people are predicting several years of difficult adjustment for brick-and-mortar RV businesses, dealerships with reputations for exceptional service as well as mobile service technicians are in an enviable position to weather any economic storm and, very likely, to flourish during that period.

The time has never been better for tech-minded, customer-focused men and women to jump into an RV service business. Take that first step today by calling the National RV Training Academy at 903-386-0444 to speak with a student adviser today.  People can also visit www.nrvta.com or email [email protected]

Source: https://rvbusiness.com/opinion-as-economy-slows-rv-service-business-booms/